So you’ve done everything in Part 1:
Chosen your Realtor & Chosen your Financing (and you know your pricing limits)
Now it’s time for the fun part, HOUSE HUNTING!! AHHH!! This is what everyone thinks of when they think of buying a house, and this is usually what people start doing before they do the other 2 things I listed above. It’s totally fine, and everyone does it that way, just don’t jump the gun and go back and do the other steps first or you may be sorry. (Not sure how? I wrote a blog about it and you can get it here.)
“I’m out looking at houses! This is fun! But what the heck am I looking for?”
I’m super glad you asked! There’s a lot that goes into deciding if a home is “the one,” and unless you’re just made of money, you can’t really afford to ignore some key points here.
1. Location, Location, Location
This is probably one you’ve heard a million times, and it’s because it could be worth millions to you in the long run. Proximity to your work, school, shopping or social activities may be obvious priorities to you now, but those aren’t the only location details you should be keeping an eye on. The location of a property affects it’s pricing. Generally, the closer to the center of commerce in an area, the more expensive the homes will be. Also, the better the school district, the more expensive the homes will be. So if you have your heart set on a brand new 4 bedroom, 3 bath, 2000+ square foot single family home in the heart of Dallas, be prepared for sticker shock if your budget is $300,000. You need to ask yourself how important the area is compared to the house itself. If you have to be in the heart of Dallas and your budget is maxed at $300,000, we’re likely going to be seeing a lot of condos and townhomes, and if that’s ok with you, then it’s ok with me! But if you’re absolutely married to the idea of a larger, newer, stand alone home, and your budget cap is $300,000, saddle up, partner, we’re headed out of town.
Location of a property also affects your living experience and your resale values. Not only do you need to do some research on the proximity to work, school, et cetera, but you also need to look at things like accessibility throughout various times of day or even various times of year. For example, if you live near a school, that may be awesome for your current or future kids, but it may also make quick trips to and from home a little more hectic than normal at certain times of the day. If you live on a densely populated street, finding parking in front of your home for guests may be an issue, so if you entertain a lot, look at how many cars are parked along the street at any given time of day.
Don’t have time to “stalk” a potential home before you write that offer? No problem, one of my favorite resources is neighborhoodscout.com. It’s an all in one resource tool that can tell you everything from crime stats to how quiet the neighborhood is. I’m a fan and I have past clients who have sworn by it. If you have more time and want to look up things on your own, check out the neighborhood at different times of day, chat with neighbors if there’s a garage sale in the area. Don’t be afraid to get to know the area before you buy! When you’re looking for your home, location is something that just can’t be ignored.
This one might seem like a no-brainer to some people, if it looks like crap, don’t buy it. Hold yer horses! Not everyone is out for the same thing in a house and if the location is more important to you than the condition of the property, sometimes ugly houses are just the thing to get you where you want to be! If you’re handy, or know some one who is, and are thinking that a “fixer upper” is the right choice for you, I’m all about it. In fact, I bought my first home in the area years ago, fixed it up myself, and made quite a bit when I sold it 3 years later, so that was the right choice for me. (I can totally help you do the same thing, just ask.) But before you go falling in love with that 1900’s built Victorian, or the 1955 Craftsman-style beauty, there are some things we must consider, not the least of which is your loan.
“Wait, I was pre-approved! What does my loan have to do with the house I want?!”
In a word, EVERYTHING. For example, about 90% of all home loan products out there have a condition approval clause in them, and what that means is that the property condition must meet the lenders requirements or the loan will not go through, period. So all the pre-approvals you’ve done are for you and your viability, now the house has to pass muster too. Don’t panic though, that’s what a good agent is there to help you do! For instance, if you have an FHA loan (don’t sweat it if you don’t know what that is, I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have) and you’re looking at a home that’s less than perfect but you love the layout, a good agent will be able to take a look at the house and let you know what kind of pitfalls you might expect when your under contract.
You can easily fix a lot about a house, the roof, the floors, the HVAC system, an ugly kitchen, you can even knock out a wall or two. But it’s much harder, and much more expensive to fix a bad layout. If the house has an awkward flow, the rooms are too small or it’s missing some other major component to your happiness, it might be best to walk away. Sure you can take it down to the studs and do a full renovation, you might even be able to do additions to the home or take in the garage, but keep in mind, the cost to do that versus what you will get out of it. Don’t forget, some neighborhoods and communities may not allow you to do things like garage conversions, or 2nd story additions, so if that’s in your plan, make sure you and your agent do the research BEFORE you buy it.
As usual, there’s a lot to learn. This by no means is an all inclusive list but keeping these 3 things in mind while you look will help you achieve long term success in not only your house hunt now, but ultimately, your life as you live in the home. The good news is, you don’t have to know it all, or any of it, before you start. I LOVE what I do and I LOVE talking about real estate, so if you have questions, please ask. Questions give me purpose, and they give me more blog topics too!
EXP Realty LLC, Dallas/Fort Worth, TX
legal advice. **